Samir Chopra May 26, 2011

Tape-delayed cricket in 2011

This year, thanks to the vagaries of television rights allocations, US residents are back to the good old days of the tape-delayed broadcast

This year, thanks to the vagaries of television rights allocations, US residents, if inclined to follow the IPL, and to retain some suspense for themselves, are back to the good old days of the tape-delayed broadcast. It might be 2011, but it feels delightfully old-fashioned. The challenges of not being exposed to the scores are harder but a fan can always find his way around them.

Dealing with tape-delay broadcasts is not just a matter of television of course. Indians old enough to have followed radio broadcasts of Test cricket from the West Indies will remember that the post-tea session, which would have been broadcast from (I think) 2-4 AM, was instead taped and then played back from 5-7 AM. I would, after listening to the pre-tea sessions, sleep with a transistor next to my pillow, and on waking up, tune in again.

The illusion was perfect; how could it not be? There was no way to find out the scores and the only intervening experience had been that of sleep. It was thus that I heard the commentary for what I still consider one of the most exciting Test finishes of all (albeit at India's expense): West Indies' chase of 172 runs in 25 overs in the 1983 Kingston Test. I awoke on the chilly morning of 28th February 1983, just in time to catch Roberts' demolition of the Indian tail, as India subsided from 168 for 6 to 174 out. Suddenly, West Indies were in with a chance, even though they'd have to score at close to seven runs an over. But then Viv Richards played, what was by his own judgment, his best innings ever, to score 61 off 36 deliveries; Gus Logie hit a six off the first ball he faced in the second innings; Mohinder Amarnath lost the plot. When the match ended, I hooped and hollered; it was a great finish; I wanted a result; it didn't matter that India had lost to the mighty West Indies. Losing to West Indies, wasn't such a disgrace, really.

When the 1996 World Cup rolled around, I was living with my girlfriend in Manhattan, and working in the Bronx. The day-night games began early in the morning and ended in the afternoon. I would only be able to watch an over or two live before I had to leave for work to begin the long subway ride on the D train, uptown to the Bronx. The extended-play mode of the videocassette, and an extremely patient girlfriend came to the rescue. I would leave after having set up the VCR with a tape in EP mode; my girlfriend, who worked at Rockefeller Center, would walk back at lunchtime to our apartment, change the tape, and then return to work; the two tapes added up to more than eight hours, more than enough for a one-day international. Fortunately, my workplace's technology infrastructure was primitive enough to not have an internet connection, and I discouraged phone calls from friends calling in with tales of grief or joy in response to cricket happenings during the day.

When I returned home in the evenings from work, I was in a state of blissful ignorance. The tape of the match was waiting, full of pleasures yet to be discovered. I would then watch the tapes till 2AM, resisting the urge, not a particularly strong one, mind you, to fast forward. Sadly, this is how I stumbled upon the disastrous riot at Calcutta in the semi-finals.

Tape-delay will possibly never go away, so long as we want to maintain the pleasures of suspense in sports. And its even easier now, thanks to broadband video subscriptions with their stored highlights and replays. Sure, you've got to keep your eyes off that live scorecard while the game is on, but that's a small price to pay. Still, I'd rather the tape-delay imposition be a voluntary one, not the kind forced on me.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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  • fanedlive on September 8, 2012, 13:56 GMT

    Very true! Makes a canghe to see someone spell it out like that. :)

  • fanedlive on May 31, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    the tape delay still exists........the live scoreboard of cricinfo is uptodate but the live video on ipl indiatimes is about 2 overs late....i first follow see the score on cricinfo and then catch the live action.....also i did this during the world cup and before....since i started watching cricket through live streaming...i do this

  • fanedlive on May 29, 2011, 17:00 GMT

    It was a good read bro.I was reminded of some similar experiences too.It was actually during the Champions Trophy final of 2004 between WI and England,which dragged late into the night.I had school next morning so had to go back and sleep,not to my wish though.Jeez,these parents!!!! Anyways,as soon as Chanders got out,I switched off the TV,dejected at the imminent loss of morning at school,I kept away from all cricket discussions and shut my ears off even if there was a whiff of one.Returned home and thought of checking the highlights,still believing that Eng had won.....and boy,wasnt it fun!!!! Watching a highlights package has never made me so cold-feet ever as it made me that day.....and oh well,WI won to the utter amazement and happiness of me...... Good times!!

  • fanedlive on May 28, 2011, 6:38 GMT

    Absolutely what i do nowadays during test matches..! I cease to receive calls from friends and control the inexplicable urge to watch the cricinfo site all throughout the day.. Then when i get back in the evening, i watch the Highlights package which r the longest ones.. It feels great to read what two people share in common.. Thank u for the article mate!

  • fanedlive on May 28, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    I agree completely. I still remember the time when Ivan Lendl won his first grand slam. It was a thrilling match when he came back from 2 sets behind to defeat McEnroe at French Open. I could not watch it as the commentator (Kishore Bhimani) in his enthusiasm spilled out that Lendl won the match. Missed a great match.

  • fanedlive on May 27, 2011, 0:54 GMT

    This is exactly what I do now, at least with the IPL. I try to watch the highlights without reading the news to retain the excitement. But what you didn't mention here is that Indians abroad can also watch the games through dozens of websites that show them live. I'm not sure if those websites are legally authorized to broadcast the games, but I sure can't thank them enough!

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